James David Power III
James David Power III Revolutionized the Auto Industry
Interviewed and written by Aaron Robinson
Forming one of the most innovative companies in the world, James David ‘Dave’ Power III, achieved his goal of what began at the kitchen table which eventually revolutionized the auto industry. The 82 year old tells all in his new book POWER: How J. D. Power Became the Auto Industry’s Adviser, Confessor, and Eyewitness to history.
Aaron Robinson: When you formed J.D. Power and Associates, what sparked in you that made you want to create this service that would have an impact on the auto industry?
Dave Power: I first started working for Ford Motor Company back in 1959 as a financial analyst. I wanted to get into market research, but they wouldn’t transfer me. I went to work for General Motors and GMC and that lead me into a love of doing the market research. I found out that when the research went through the organizations it was twisted and massaged until it came out the way the manager wanted to hear it. I finally got fed up with that and I ended up in Los Angeles, and one night I went home and told my wife that I think I should start a company and she agreed to it. We had four children. She did the work of mailing the questionnaires and tabulating the results while I went out talking to clients. The oldest child was 6 years old and they were employed on the kitchen table to put the stamps on the envelopes, fold the questionnaires and so forth. They also helped my wife organize them. So that’s how we got started.
Aaron: In your beginning stages, did you ever perceive this company growing so huge?
Dave: No way! (laugh) I still have to pinch myself.
Aaron: You have a book called POWER. What was your inspiration to writing this great piece of work?
Dave: I’m 82 years old and I’ve been wanting to tell the story of my 50 years in the automobile industry. I wanted it to be for the general public as opposed to all of those car books out there.
Aaron: When readers read your book, what valuable messages would you like for them to take away that they may be able to use in their everyday life or business?
Dave: I think one thing would be that we’re true to ourselves and in that way we don’t massage the data. It’s straight forward. If it wasn’t for the billions of consumers sending back the questionnaires…we presented that in factual form to the entire industry. So we have to thank the consumers for helping us out in that regard.
Aaron: What do you believe has been some of your greatest challenges through your early career eventually making J.D. Power and Associates a household name?
Dave: The biggest challenge was getting the car manufacturers to listen to the voice of the customer. It took us 25 years before we got the whole industry behind us. That was a challenge, but we kept at it. One of the big things was that we owned the data; we did the surveys without direction from the car manufacturers. We did it across the entire industry and nobody had done that before. When we owned the data we were allowed to talk about it. We’d get calls from the press and they’re the ones who really helped get the word across.
Aaron: Would you like to add anything else before we close the interview?
Dave: I’d like to thank the American public for participating in our questionnaires and sending them back to us, which also helped us improve the questionnaires. They [consumers] were very conscious of the problems in regards to the quality of the product and we reported that back to each of the manufacturers. We showed their ranking among the other manufacturers. That allowed us to really score with the top management. It was just getting the message out to the consumers. Believe me it’s continuing on. I think we’ve revolutionized the voice of the customer. It’s been a great ride and I want to subscribe that in a format that will be of interest to the young people coming up in the world.